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Wireless Home Networking for Dummies - Danny Briere, Walter R.Bruce, ....pdf
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Chapter 1: Introducing Wireless Home Networking 13

Audio anywhere in the household: Why spend money on CDs and keep them stacked next to your stereo? Load them on your PC and make them wirelessly available to your stereo, your car, your MP3 player that you take jogging, and lots more. Check out Chapter 13 for more info on how to use your wireless network to send audio and video signals around the house.

Phone (your Mom’s) home: With some new wireless phone capabilities, you can get rid of the static of your cordless phone and move digital over your home wireless network, thus saving money on calls by using less-expensive, Internet-based phone calling options.

Check your home wireless cam: You can check out your house from anywhere in the house — or in the world — with new wireless cameras that hop on your home network and broadcast images privately or publicly over the Internet. Want to see whether your kids are tearing apart the house while you’re working in your office downstairs? Just call up your wireless-networked camera and check them out. (In our generation, we always said that “Mom had eyes in the back of her head;” this generation will probably think that Mom is omniscient!)

Wireless on-the-go: This is great for those with a portable computer. Many airports, hotels, malls, and coffee shops have installed public wireless networks that enable you via hot spots to connect to the Internet (for a small fee, of course). Refer to Chapter 16 for more about using wireless networking while away from home.

Wired versus Wireless

Ethernet is the most-often used method of connecting personal computers together to form a network because it’s fast and its equipment is relatively inexpensive. In addition, Ethernet can be transmitted over several types of network cable or sent through the air by using wireless networking equipment. Many new computers have an Ethernet connection built in, ready for you to plug in a network cable. The most popular wireless networking equipment transmits a form of Ethernet.

Installing wired home networks

Even though we’re talking mostly about wireless networks in this book and how great they are, we’d be misleading you if we told you that wireless was the only way to go. Wireless and wired homes each have advantages.


Part I: Wireless Networking Fundamentals

Wired homes are

Faster: Wired lines can reach 1000 Mbps in speed, whereas wireless homes tend to be in the 10 Mbps and soon 100 Mbps range. Both wireless and wired technologies are getting faster and faster, but wired will always be ahead.

More reliable: Wireless signals are prone to interference and fluctuations; wired connections typically are more stable and reliable.

More secure: You don’t have to worry about your signals traveling through the air and being intercepted by snoopers, like with unsecured wireless systems.

Economical over the long term: The incremental cost of adding Cat 5e voice and data cabling and RG-6 coaxial cabling into your house — over a 30-year mortgage — will be almost nothing each month.

Salable: More and more homebuyers are not only looking for well-wired homes but are discounting homes without the infrastructure. As good as wireless is, it is not affixed to the house and is carried with you when you leave. Most new homes have structure wiring in the walls.

If you’re building a new home or renovating an old one, we absolutely recommend that you consider running the latest wiring in the walls to each of your rooms. That doesn’t mean that you won’t have a wireless network in your home — you will. It just will be different than if you were wholly reliant on wireless for your networking.

If you choose to use network cable, it should ideally be installed in the walls, just like electrical and phone wiring. Network jacks (outlets) are installed in the walls in rooms where you would expect to use a computer. Connecting your computer to a wired network is just as easy as plugging a phone into a phone jack — after the wiring is in place, that is.

Without question, the most economical time to install network cable in a home is during the home’s initial construction. In upscale neighborhoods, especially in communities near high-tech businesses, builders often wire new homes with network cable as a matter of course. In most cases, however, installation of network cable in a new home is an option or upgrade that’s installed only if the new owner orders it and pays a premium. Installing a structured wiring solution for a home can cost at least $2,000–$3,000, and that’s for starters.

Although certainly possible, installation of network cable in an existing home is much more difficult and expensive than installing cable during construction. If you hire an electrician to run the cable, you can easily spend thousands of dollars to do what would have cost a few hundred dollars during

Chapter 1: Introducing Wireless Home Networking 15

your home’s construction. If you’re comfortable drilling holes in your walls and crawling around in attics and crawl spaces, you can install the cabling yourself for the cost of the cable and outlets.

The reality is that no home will ever be purely wireless or wireline (wired). Each approach has benefits and costs, and they will coexist in any house. If you’re building a new house, most experts tell you to spend the extra money on a structured wiring solution because it adds value to your house and you can better manage all the wiring in your home. We agree. But no wiring solution can be everywhere that you want it to be. Thus, wireless is a great complement to your home, which is why we advocate a whole home wireless network for your entire home to use.

Installing wireless home networks

If you’re networking an existing home or are renting your home, wireless has fabulous benefits:

Portable: You can take your computing device anywhere in the house and be on the network. Even if you have a huge house, you can interconnect wireless access points to have a whole home wireless network.

Flexible: You’re not limited to where a jack is on the wall; you can network anywhere.

Cost effective: You can start wireless networking for a couple of hundred dollars. Your wiring contractor can’t do much with that!

Clean: You won’t have to tear down walls or trip over wires when they come out from underneath the carpeting.

What’s more, there’s really no difference how you use your networked computer, whether it’s connected to the network by a cable or by a wireless networking device. Whether you’re sharing files, a printer, your entertainment system, or the Internet over the network, the procedures are the same on a wireless network as on a wired network. In fact, you can mix wired and wireless network equipment on the same network with no change in how you use a computer on the network.

Time for the fine print. We’d be remiss if we weren’t candid and mention any potential drawbacks to wireless networks compared with wired networks. The possible drawbacks fall into four categories:

Data speed: Wireless networking equipment does transmit data at slower speeds than wired networking equipment. Wired networks are already networking at gigabit speeds, although the fastest wireless networking standards (in the best situations) tops out at 54 Mbps. (Some